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South China Sea issue grows 'positive'

By Li Xiaokun | China Daily | Updated: 2017-05-03 07:33

The situation in the South China Sea issue has cooled down and the issue "is developing in a positive way", the Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.

"China has noticed expressions in the summit chairman's statement about the South China Sea," ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said of a chairman's statement issued by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Manila on Sunday.

"At present, thanks to joint efforts of regional countries, the temperatures of the South China Sea situation have gone down, things have eased up and the situation is developing in a positive way."

The statement of the 10-country bloc spoke of "the improving cooperation between ASEAN and China", and did not include references to "tensions".

An ASEAN diplomat told Reuters that the statement was a genuine representation of the atmosphere of the Manila meetings.

"We respected the Philippines' views and cooperated," the diplomat said. "It clearly reflected how the issue was discussed." The Philippines holds the rotating ASEAN chairmanship this year.

In another gesture reflecting warming ties, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte visited three Chinese warships on Monday that would berthed in his hometown of Davao city on the southern island of Mindanao.

"This is part of confidence-building and goodwill and to show we are friends, and that is why I welcome them," he said.

Duterte also repeated on Monday that he had agreed to hold joint China-Philippine military exercises.

Geng said on Tuesday at the news briefing that Beijing welcomes Duterte's visit to the warships, "which reflects increasing mutual political trust between the two sides".

He said the nations' ties have "improved comprehensively" since last year and brought tangible benefits to the people.

"This fully confirmed that friendly cooperation is the right choice that is in line with fundamental interests of the two countries and the two peoples."

Wang Baofu, a military strategist at the National Defence University of the People's Liberation Army, said the Chinese warships visited the Philippines at the invitation of Duterte.

"The visit of the warships, under such a situation ... is very significant and has drawn close attention from countries in the region," Wang said in an analysis issued on the Defense Ministry's website.

"It is not a symbolic move, but an important step for the two sides to build up military and strategic mutual trust."

lixiaokun@chinadaily.com.cn

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